Tie This “Sailing Hitch” Knot in Ten Seconds!

Here’s another great sailing tip from our friend Capt. John from skippertips.com

What sailing knot could you tie onto a piling for a safe and secure temporary mooring? Or, lash your rudder in place if you need to heave-to in stormy weather? Learn this little-known sailing knot technique for safer sailing.

Tie the “Crossing Turn” version of the clove hitch over an open ended object like a piling or tiller. With practice, you can tie this sailing knot in less than ten seconds! See steps below.

I believe the clove hitch stands alone as one of the most important knots in all of sailing. And not because of robustness or strength. Indeed, a clove hitch “without assistance” will slip and slide without constant strain. And it can spill (untie) if slacked and shocked over and over.

Yet, this single knot rises to the top as one of sailings vital “foundation” knots. Many knots use the clove as a “starter“, like the constrictor knot. Others use the clove as a “finisher“, like the marline lashing. And, it’s the perfect knot to show a novice–easy-to-learn and easy-to-tie.

You can use the clove hitch to:

- Hold fenders in place.
- Lash a rope coil to a rail.
- Hang rope below for storage.
- Form the foundation for the double constrictor knot.
- Finish off sailing gear lashings.
- Make a temporary hitch to belay a line to a post or piling (add two half-hitches for extra security).
- Hold your tiller in place for steering (temporary).
- Adjust the tiller with ease when hove-to.

How to Tie the “Crossing Turn” Clove Hitch

Once you know the basic clove hitch, you’re ready for a bit more advanced version–and one that’s even faster! Tie the Clove Hitch with a super simple crossing-turns technique. Follow the steps below to learn this little-known technique.

1. Learn the Crossing Turn.

Hold a long piece of line in both hands. In illustration 1, note how the working end of the line (right side of the line) passes beneath the belayed end. If you are right handed, follow this illustration. Twist the loop of line in your right hand and place it beneath the line in your left hand (this would be belayed to a cleat or other device) If you are left handed, the working end will be in your left hand; loop this beneath the other end.

2. Form the Hitch Over the Fitting.

Drape the loop over a post, piling, end of a tiller or other open-ended object as shown (illustration 2). Create a second crossing turn in the same exact manner as the first (illustration 3). Slide the second crossing turn up and over the first crossing turn. Drape the second crossing turn over the post, piling, or tiller (illustration 4).

3. Secure the Clove Hitch.

Take a look at illustration 4. Realize that knots often fail because they are left loose like this after the final step. Spend a few extra seconds to remove the slack and tighten up the knot. Butt up the crossing turns next to one another. Work both ends of the hitch to remove as much slack as possible (illustration 5). Add two half-hitches or a rolling hitch beneath the knot for extra security.


Learn how to make sailing knots faster and easier with techniques like the little-known crossing-turn clove hitch. Add this sailing tip to your “need-to-know” sailing knots list. Pass it along to your sailing crew or partner–wherever you choose to sail or cruise!

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